Winning the Chance to Edit Your First Feature Film
This is the story of how Erwann Kerroc’h, Jarivan Ahmad and John Grenham earned the chance to edit their first feature film, for credit and pay, thanks to This Guy Edit’s online training course, The Go-To Editor.
And what you can learn from their experience of cutting their first feature film.
You can check out my detailed review of The Go-To Editor here, which offers a unique blend of film editing craft training and film industry break in and break through tactics.
Here is a brief introduction from seasoned editor Sven Pape, a.k.a This Guy Edits:
What is Bootcamp 2.0?
It is an optional challenge for students of The Go-To Editor course with a real opportunity to become the editor on an indie feature called “Not For Nothing“.
Over 40 students applied, and twelve candidates were selected to participate in this Bootcamp (based on merit). To be considered, they needed to have cut at least two scenes from the Go-To Editor course (which they were required to submit) as well as a resume and reel.
The 12 who moved on to Round 2 got the opportunity to cut a scene sequence from the film (within two weeks), and the directors reviewed their edits (one student had to drop out). They then interviewed five editors and decided to hire three to cut their film.
The film has a cameo by director/actor Mark Webber who I worked with on many films, including the Sundance Fest competitor “The End of Love.”
This process was absolutely fascinating to me on so many levels.
To see our sequence filtered through 11 different artistic minds from all around the globe was beyond inspiring.
Ultimately, we decided on hiring a three-person team that I have named TRIFORCE.
I truly wish we could have hired everyone.Frankie Tartaglia, Director
Inside the Go-To Editor Bootcamp 2.0 Feature Competition
Here is my interview with all the three editors, conducted over email and compiled into this conversation.
JG: John Grenham is based in Manhattan in New York, USA.
EK: Erwann Kerroc’h is based in Paris, France.
JA: Jarivan Ahmad is based in Aarhus, Denmark.
What made you sign up for the Go To Editor Course in the first place? What were you hoping to get out of it?
JG: Like many others, I signed up for the course in the midst of the pandemic lockdowns. After researching a few different courses (using your blog as a resource, of course) it seemed like Sven’s provided the most well rounded curriculum and a great bang for your buck.
I feel like I have quite a ways to go until I consider myself a great storyteller, so I figured that joining the course would aid in pushing me further down the learning path.
EK: I had discovered Sven’s “This Guy Edits” channel about a year earlier, through his video essays about editing that I found incredibly good – which also made me rethink my approach of editing.
I was hoping to become a better editor, a better storyteller, and as the course advertised, a “Go-To Editor”. And though I can’t say I’m a go-to editor yet, I guess you could argue I’m on my way: I just started cutting my very first movie with two other editors from the course.
Editing an actual movie, especially in this genre and made in the US, is a dream come true for me, and I hope it’ll give me the opportunity to showcase my talent and get other exciting opportunities.
JA: I signed up at a time in my life where I had little work and a lot of free time. The reason I chose TGTE was that I wanted to edit something for practice. I didn’t want to go out and shoot something. I wanted to try and work with dailies from a feature film and practice my storytelling skills in that regard.
My hope was to get better at my craft. I felt like I was stuck and I have been following Sven’s youtube channel for a while. So I jumped on the opportunity to try the course. Of course the full refund helped, cause I was low on money but high on time.
But I was willing to invest in myself, and this course gave me the opportunity to do that with no risk. And it has been worth the money.
How was your experience of the course and did it deliver on your expectations?
JA: My experience in the course has been outstanding. The community in the Discord group is great, cause you get to talk to equals. I don’t use it a lot, but when I do it feels like a community.
JG: I have had nothing but great experiences thus far. I feel like a significantly better editor now (not that I’m a master or anything, still a long way to go!) compared to my skill set before the course.
I think the community on Discord is a huge part of that, since we all share/review each other’s cuts. It’s great to have so many sets of eyes picking apart your work, all with the end goal to make it better.
EK: I’m one of the people who had (and is still having) an extremely good time with the course.
I joined very early, and I can honestly say I tried to make as much as I could with it; I followed every advice, gave feedback to everyone who needed it, tried to participate to every office hour, but before that I worked hard on my cuts.
You have to know that the course provides us with actual film footage from Mark Webber’s “Flesh and Blood” (which was edited by Sven and released in 2017), but also from a documentary and a commercial – so we learn how to edit it all.
I really tried to push my storytelling boundaries, embracing the “building blocks” approach – since we didn’t have to respect a director’s vision, we could do whatever went through our head, as long as we aimed at making great scenes.
The course also takes great care at giving you the keys to finding work, and how to promote yourself. I always have been a very introvert person (I guess a lot of editors are), and it really helped me break down my own mental barriers.
I joined an association for editors and chatted with several AE’s who invited me to go see them cutting the movie they were working on, and soon after I was hired as a freelancer by a big web channel directly linked to one of the main french TV channels, in which I soon became the unofficial trailer editor.
Through a director friend I harassed, I was hired to cut comedic short movies for a famous youtuber, while I was cutting a 26 minutes short movie to be shown in film festivals (hopefully) this year.
So yeah, the course did deliver on my expectations: it gave me the strength to go after what I wanted, while giving me a strategy to do so.
What made you apply for the Bootcamp and what was it like cutting the bootcamp scenes?
JG: Cutting the actual scenes proved to be an interesting challenge! I tried to approach it like I would anything else when it comes to selecting/assembling/whatnot, but there were some issues due to COVID guidelines that made certain shots/setups useless (the main sequence we had is a big party scene).
That definitely limited the choices we all had available to us, and it was eye opening to see how everyone handled those differently. It was also strange to be handed these characters and have to guess at what types of performances work for each of them.
Now that I’m actually cutting the film, there are a ton of changes I wanna make to keep everyone in-line.
JA: I applied because it was a great opportunity to actually apply for a job that usually is only a dream; to cut a feature would be amazing.
I loved every minute of cutting the bootcamp scenes. Creating an engaging story that made people feel something for the story and character was the best feeling.
And just doing the work, and trying different things in the editing was rewarding. So even if I didn’t end up getting the job it would have been a great learning experience.
EK: As for the actual editing process, I have to say it wasn’t the easiest scenes to cut.
The directors gave them to us for that very reason: they were struggling with them, and wanted to see who could really make good something out of this. And since I didn’t have as much time as my competitors, I decided to really get creative so the directors would see that there was solutions they probably didn’t think of – and they were especially looking for that kind of cut.
I went all out, and tried to think of things other wouldn’t: for example, at one point our three protagonists are waiting outside a nightclub in their car. They suddenly notice a cop in front of the entrance, but I didn’t have any shot of the cop showing up in his car – he was just there.
To me, it didn’t make sense that the guys wouldn’t notice the cop right away since he seems to have been there from the very beginning of the scene. So I decided to manipulate the dailies in such way that you’d believe the cop car passed their own car at some point, and through audio editing parked in front of the nightclub.
It worked well enough using closeups, but I had the chance to have one shot that all the other editors missed: between two takes, while the camera was still rolling, a real-life cop car passed our protagonists’ vehicle in a master shot.
I cropped out the car and used masks in order to have the three characters inside their car while the police car passed them, and it really sold the thing. I was really happy about the result, especially since I was the only one to think about this!
How did you feel when you realised you were a finalist?
JA: I was thrilled that I got to work on dailies the from a feature. But to be honest, I don’t remember what else I felt. I just went into work mode.
EK: I was extremely happy of course! But that imposter syndrome is never far away, so I immediately start worrying. But through my conversations with John and Jarivan, I realized we were really on the same wavelength, and that we would work very well with each others. And it made me feel a lot better about the project!
JG: I was ridiculously hyped and a bit surprised, honestly! After seeing all the other cuts, I knew I had some really talented competitors.
Most of the other guys were a bit older than I, so I felt a bit like a youngin’ hanging out with the adults (to be honest I’m 24, so also an adult…).
While imposter syndrome was/is still at play, this whole process has definitely given me some confidence in my instincts/abilities when it comes to approaching scenes, though not enough confidence to have an ego about it (key for us editors).
What was the director interview like?
JG: Interviewing with Frankie & Tim was great! We seemed to click pretty quickly once you get past that initial Zoom awkwardness.
I was fortunate enough to read the script ahead of time, so we were able to dive a bit deeper into the world of the film, and the events in their life which have influenced the story.
Interestingly enough, we had VERY differing answers when it came to our filmmaking influences (Villeneuve vs Scorsese). I always thought that topic would be the thing to make or break a director(s)/editor relationship, but it appears that it may not always be the case! It’s a nice little lesson in just being yourself I suppose.
EK: It was very casual! They have a great working relationship, while being very different. I think my work talked for me: as I said, they really wanted me onboard because of how impressed they were by my overall submission.
I’d say I was the one who was kinda trying to hit the brakes, because suddenly it was real, and it made me a bit afraid.
JA: The directors were very different. One talks a lot, the other listens a lot. So two very different people who were interested in what I had to say. Which is great, cause it made it feel like I would come in as a collaborator and not as a technician.
How did you feel when you were chosen to work on the feature?
JA: I woke up to an email from the directors saying they wanted me and two other editors. I was on a high that day. And the news of multiple editors was great. It took some of the pressure away and I just love collaborating. So win-win on everything.
EK: Proud and scared! Sometimes you’ve been chasing a dream for so long you don’t think you’ll ever reach it; that was one of these moments.
Deep inside me I knew I deserved the shot, after all the work I put in as an editor, working for free a lot even though I had years of experience just to get opportunities to cut narrative stuff.
On the other hand, I suddenly had a huge responsibility that I never had before. But I already had spent two months cutting a 26 minute short film by myself (unavailable director), based on +10 hours of dailies with 14 characters in a single room; so thinking about that I felt more ready than ever.
JG: Oh man, I was so incredibly excited when I got the job! First of all, I’m editing a real movie! Like what?!
If you told me way back in college when I was reading “How to Become A 2nd Assistant Film Editor” that I’d be cutting my first feature at 24, I wouldn’t even believe it.
Not only that, but I get to work with two other editors that are WAY better at this than I am. I hear the word of advice to “be the dumbest person in the room,” and I feel incredibly lucky to be that guy. Poor Erwann & Jarvian are gonna have to fix all my cuts! (Half kidding)
In all sincerity though, I felt incredibly lucky and fortunate to be chosen for the role, and for Sven’s course bringing opportunities like it to us up-and-coming folks.
How has it been working on the feature film and how is the work divided between the three editors?
EK: We’re still early in the editing process itself, but there was a lot of back and forth between us editors earlier, about the tone of the film, based on the discussions we had with the directors, the rough cut we were provided and the script.
We decided to cut the script in three, each editor taking round 40 pages, though at first we talked about working per Act.
John set up all the remote working environment through Premiere so we could work properly with each other, and from there we started cutting.
JG: It’s been really smooth thus far! None of us have ever co-edited a project, but modern technology makes it near-effortless. We’re using Premiere’s new-ish Productions feature + Dropbox to house our project/keep everything locked.
JA: So far, it has been fun, anxious and exciting. There is so much to grasp. So much footage. Some scenes are easier than others. But once you dive deep into it. Time just flies away.
What have you learned from working on a real feature film and getting your first credit?
JA: Most importantly, I have learnt that this is what I want to do.
JG: Wrapping one’s head around the volume of footage is a TASK!
I try to focus on just one scene at a time so I don’t drown in a sea of dailies, but when I load up an All Rushes sequence and it’s 3 hours long for a 6 minute scene… my brain definitely signals some alarms. The scary part is that for a veteran editor, that’s just a warmup!
It’s also interesting seeing how long watching dailies/assembling/refining actually takes me vs how long I estimated it would take me (Spoiler alert: way longer). So not only am I getting to cut a real movie, but I’m also getting a lesson in time management.
I’m curious to see how this credit will affect my ability to pick up gigs down the road. I definitely don’t feel like a “real” feature editor that could go out for big-boy union jobs (that’s many, many years away) but I would hope it would aid in adding legitimacy when I claim “I’m an Editor.“
EK: It’s still very much a work in progress, so I’m pretty sure I’ll learn a lot along the way, but so far the most interesting was to work with other people, other editors, and trying to figure out a movie and how to make the best film it can be.
We had a lot of very interesting talks, and it was very cool to see how we got along although being from different countries (John is American, Jarivan is Danish, and I’m French!), our different experiences and career bringing fresh takes.
I think we became good friends through the process – as early as it is – and that helped us really confide about what we feel about a certain scene, a certain approach, a certain shot.
Working with other editors has been a blessing, and though I’m the oldest of the group, I learnt a lot from these guys, may it be about the technical stuff or the storytelling choices.
Personally I hate competition, having to “fight” against others to win: here, it never felt like a competition, and it still doesn’t with my two co-editors. We really support each others, because before anything else, we want the film to be good.
Anything else you’d like to say?
EK: I’m almost 40 years-old by now, and I’ve been editing since I was 14. I used to shoot on an mini-DV camera my dad bought, and cut on the very first iMovie. Ever since, I never stopped cutting and my passion for storytelling never disappeared – it just grew A LOT.
Today, I’m cutting my first feature film, something I thought was unreachable at my age and at the point where my career was. I took many wrong turns, waited too much and was too shy – but I never stopped dreaming, and at some point I decided that I had no excuse. And I guess I made it happen.
What I mean with all that, is that you should everything and anything in your power to go after the things you’re looking for. We now have the chance to have a camera in our pockets, free professional NLE a few clicks away, and the platforms to share our content.
If you want to cut, or make movies, there’s no better time than now. You have no excuse. Don’t wait for the best idea in the world, for the best camera, or the best actor: just start shooting now, and the right opportunity will present itself to you, because you would have worked for it.
You’ll be ready to direct or cut the movie that will be in front of you.